‘Chemical Hearts’ is the story of a teenager who falls in love for the first time, only to realize that it is not as magnificent and fairy-tale-ish as it is shown in the movies. The film charts the journey for both the boy and the girl where they learn from their experiences and by the end of the school year, go through a sharp arc of character development. They also learn what it means to love and to let go, and the bittersweet ending only makes their love story all the more relatable. SPOILERS AHEAD
Henry meets Grace when they are offered to work as co-editors for the school newspaper. Their first meeting leaves an impact on Henry and he becomes interested in the isolated and detached Grace. As they spend more time together, he falls in love with her. But she has a painful past that is not so easy to let go. While she tries to heal from her wounds, Henry discovers what it means to have a heartbreak.
The Ending: Do Henry and Grace end up together?
Henry and Grace’s story had started at a point where both of them were on two very different emotional planes. Grace was fresh out of a horrific accident that had claimed the life of her boyfriend, and Henry was yet to fall in love and understand the pain that comes with it. The difference in their understanding of love is established in the scene where they meet for the first time. Grace reads a poem by Pablo Neruda which focuses on the intensity of love felt by him. Henry reads the poem and falls in love with the idea of romance that he has read in books and heard in love songs. He believes that with Grace, he has found his one true love, much like his parents found each other when they were in high school. Grace, on the other hand, has already been through the phase of her life where she lived her great love story and survived the tragedy that ended it. She never came to terms with her loss and despite trying to move on from her grief, she found herself failing miserably.
By the end, both of them go through a radical shift in their understanding of each other as well as their own lives. Grace tells Henry that she is trying to move forward in her life and being with him gives her a chance to do that. However, later, both of them realize that it won’t be such an easy task. Being in a new relationship doesn’t suddenly erase all that she had with Dom and the heartbreak she is trying to fix. They break up when Henry discovers how deeply embedded her love and grief is when he discovers that she is living at Dom’s place. She wears his clothes just to feel close to him, and because she is so attached to him, she won’t love Henry as much as he is in love with her.
Things get out of control when she doesn’t come to school one day and is nowhere to be found. Henry is alarmed and tracks her down to the abandoned building where she had taken him months ago. He finds her crying in the pond, wearing a white dress, the one that she says she was supposed to wear when she and Dom would get married. This is also when Henry discovers that her grief runs far deeper than her love for Dom. She also feels guilty for his death and has been trying to make up for it somehow, in these past few months.
After the incident, Grace takes some time off and sees a therapist, while Henry tries to keep a distance from her. He survives his heartache of their break up and in the final issue of the school newspaper, pays homage to her by going back to the conversation they’d had about teenage limbo and what it means to be stuck in an age where you are neither a proper adult nor a child anymore. Their paths cross again on the final day of the school where Grace tells him that she would be taking a year off to get herself better. She also slips something into his pocket.
When Henry had been heartbroken over competing for Grace’s love with Dom, he had visited his grave. There, he burnt down the poem that Grace and he had talked about when they’d first met. Apparently, Grace found it later and salvaged enough of it to glue it back together. As a nod to their relationship, she leaves it in Henry’s pocket, signifying that broken as they might be in that moment, or come across such moment again in their life, they can always be put back together. But that doesn’t mean they should forget about each other or want to erase themselves from one another’s life. Just because their story didn’t have a happy ending doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a story about love. Just because they go their separate ways in the end, doesn’t mean that their being together didn’t mean anything. They have touched each other’s lives, and hence, as Henry’s sister said, will always be a part of each other.
Read More: Is Chemical Hearts a True Story?